For the Most Important Talk with Your Teenager, Send Her a Text!


Has it been a while since you had a meaningful talk with your teenager? If so, try sending them a text. Even a long text. Really.

Because while they may seem quiet and not-as-talkative as they used to be, they are communicating. And the chances are, that much of their conversation happens through text messages. 95% of teenagers, between age 12-17, either have a smart phone or have access to one. And while we adults might see texting as a simple, short-form, quick-answer, send-a-photo or an address way of communicating—to teenagers today, texting is where they do most of their “talking.”

So have you considered sending your son or daughter a text that really matters? Or inviting a longer conversation with them through a text? If not, you might be missing out on the easiest way to reach them, simply by meeting them where they are.  

Seems hard, but it’s not. Here’s some simple suggestions:

  1. Don’t let texting change your voice!  Don’t try to be cool (or “hip,” “groovy,” “down,” or any other way). Be their parent. Be who you’ve always been. They will see right through you if you try and use every emoji and text-slang in the book. You’re enough just as you are.

  2.  If you don’t know your texting voice yet, find it! If you’re not used to texting, or you don’t regularly carry on longer strings of conversation through text, you should start. Begin with someone with whom you already have a good communication rhythm. Get used to expressing your thoughts and feelings through this medium. It’s actually really fun once you start trying it! 

  3. Ask your kids for help.  That’s right. Even if you think you’re a texting wizard. Tell your kids you’re going to start texting more, and ask them for advice. Let them mentor you. You might hear more than you want to about your “dad-jokes” or your “lame stories.” But in the end, this exercise is about communicating more with them, and when they start teaching you what they know, guess what? YOU ARE COMMUNICATING. 

  4. Texting is not a place for monologues!  One great thing about texting is how democratic a process it truly is. When you text someone, they have a choice to respond or not. They have a choice of when to respond, as well. And, worst of all, THEY CAN CHOOSE TO IGNORE YOU! Sure, your text will most likely pop up on their screen, but if all you do is send them long thoughts that don’t require a response, or even worse, if you make them not want to respond, then you’re better off standing outside their door waiting for them to open up. And you know what that’s like.    

  5. Texting allows for carefully worded, and thoughtful messages.  Because you can edit your response, you can swallow your pride, anger, or any impulse to lecture or correct.  But guess what? So can they. Won’t it be nice to have a simple conversation where what you write is really what is in your heart and not just the first thing out of your mouth? 

  6. Texting is a safe place for teenagers.  There’s a lot to this, but when it comes to you, as a their parent, texting is a place where teens can roll their eyes at your message and not get in trouble. They can get angry, they can laugh, they can say to the ceiling, “My dad is so dumb,” and then calmly text back, “Great. Thanks, Dad,” and nobody’s feelings get hurt.  Especially yours. Remember, your teen is still discovering how to communicate. The freedom to eye roll without getting a stern look, or a “don’t you roll your eyes at me” might just keep the communication channel open a bit longer.    

  7. Texting is a safe place for parents, too.  A friend of our family recently received a text from her teenage daughter, telling her that she was pregnant. Of course, our friend flipped out.  She tried calling her daughter, but she didn’t answer. So, she started to send her a few panicked texts, but she was crying so hard that she couldn’t see the keyboard. Finally, she calmed down and sent a simple, heartfelt text: “I love you, Honey. Your dad and I are here for you whenever you want to talk.” A few minutes later, she walked in the door. Texting had helped this mom not make the big mistake all parents make sometimes—emotionally reacting in a way that pushes kids away.  She already had a great relationship with her daughter, but because of that text and the door it opened, both mother and daughter were able to go through many different emotions together without damaging their relationship.  And isn’t that what it’s all about?

The world we live in is changing rapidly. New technology is coming out almost every day. But your relationship with your children can continue to be strong, vibrant and engaging. They aren’t running away from you, they are simply discovering a new world. And more than likely, they want you to be part of it, and they’re waiting for you to show up.